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Submitted by Gwynne Dixon on March 11 2010 - 12:58

Look out, Infinity Ward! There's a new modern combat shooter in town: EALA and DICE's Medal of Honor...

When EA sent us over the announcement press release for Medal of Honor in December, it was filled with references to Tier 1 Operators - special operatives in the US military that will form the backbone of its modern combat inspired Medal of Honor revamp. Intrigued, we typed "Tier 1 Operators" into Google expecting at least a few references to them as some kind of spec-ops division, or perhaps even a small wiki page if we were lucky. There was literally nothing. We pointed out this absence in our news piece, only to be pretty hilariously told by one of our readers, "Really?  You Googled a supposedly secret arm of the secret services and nothing came up? WOW, shocking."

Whoever that anonymous poster was, they were bang on the money. EA has informed us that of 2 million employees in the US military, 50,000 are considered special operatives. Of that 50,000, a mere 200 are Tier 1 Operatives, hand-picked from a recruitment process where only 5% of applicants are successful. In other words, it makes Top Gun look like a frequent flyers club. EA explained to us that it has been working closely with real Tier 1 Operators, both retired and currently serving, to bring more realism and authenticity to the game. Everything from the precise way a Tier 1 Operator would hold a gun (apparently that's different from the accepted FPS conventions), to how they stealthily blend themselves into civilian communities, has been taken into account and it shows.

EA is clearly pumping the lion's share of its 2010 resources into Medal of Honor, a game that takes the current conflict in Afghanistan and speaks fictionally about what might have gone on over there far beneath the radar of Western news broadcasts. This particular story follows the path of a Tier 1 squad called 'Scalpel', and our first look picked them up in an area of Afghanistan dubbed the "Shanhikot Valley". We're going to go ahead and assume that this is a reference to the Shah-i-Kot Valley, a genuine area of Afghanistan that was location to one of the largest battles in the war so far. Whatever the case, similar to the Shah-i-Kot Valley, Medal of Honor's destination was a maze of rugged, rocky terrain across mountaintops that appeared as cold and unforgiving as the Tier 1 Operators themselves.

The level we saw started unlike any FPS we've ever seen before: with a goat in our face. Truly, the goat had apparently wondered directly in front of our Tier 1 Operator's eye-view as he lay prone and camouflaged in the undergrowth, patiently biding his time for the ideal opportunity to make a hit on his target. Thankfully, the goat got up and departed as our squad-mates moved into position and performed the kind of surgically incisive kill that you'd expect of the US army's elite. From here, 'Scalpel' moved deeper and higher into the hills where it found an enemy artillery emplacement firing on US positions. Part of the Tier 1 Operators remit is that they're in place, behind enemy lines and dressed like Afghan civilians to ease the path of 'Sledgehammer' (a codeword EA is using to refer to the larger presence of US forces - US Army Rangers and Air Force pilots etc.). Put another way, taking out artillery emplacements is a Tier 1 Operator's bread and butter.

Our squad spread out across a verge that lay directly above the gun and insurgents that manned it. Each operator took up a specific position on the verge, where they waited until the perfect moment and then lit up the mountainside with hot lead in unison, skilfully decimating the enemy forces in a matter of seconds. From there it was merely a case of swiftly mopping up the stragglers and planting explosives on the artillery gun to cease its function. It was clear to us by now that this was going to be a heavily scripted FPS experience with a broad scope, but a rigidly defined narrative that insisted on leading players through set-pieces rather than providing them with various options of how they'd like to attack it.

The style is unquestionably Modern Warfare inspired, and this is certainly not to Medal of Honor's detriment. One thing that Infinity Ward's series has always valued above all else is immersion, which it has controlled by casting players as a cog in an altogether larger and more significant machine. Whether it's 'Soap', Captain Price, or Sergeant Foley giving the orders, Modern Warfare consistently positions the player as second in command at most, allowing the developers to have strict control over what happens next and precisely where by directing players via its NPCs. It's a style that's particularly difficult to master because, without superb presentation in the visuals, voice-over work, level design, and combat set-pieces, players will quickly see through the illusion that's cast and feel constrained rather than immersed.

To say that Medal of Honor is a Modern Warfare clone would be too easy and cynical. Yes, it's clearly taking leaves out of that particular book, but why wouldn't it? The demand for this kind of gameplay is clearly at its apex, so to ignore that would be plain stupid. EALA appears to be nailing down this kind of experience with a distinct level of expertise, so God speed to it as far as we're concerned. Never was this more the case during our first look than the section that followed-on after the artillery gun, where the Tier 1 Operators set up shop by a mountain road and waited for a convoy to come into sight. Looking down across the valley, a US 'big bird' could be clearly seen on a bombing run, hitting targets in the valley's basin and emblazoning the night sky in the process.

What was particularly striking was how well the game environment was being rendered at this point. The explosions looked and sounded miles away, and yet a believable part of the whole environment rather than a distant backdrop. As our squad 'lazed' the target convoy of trucks that were coming around the mountain, the bomber veered of its flight path and started to fire rockets at our position. The resulting firework display almost bought a tear to the eye (for all the white phosphor), and was an impressive demonstration of how well EALA is working with the modified Unreal Engine 3 that it's using for Medal of Honor. If this sort of pace and variation is consistent throughout the game's single-player experience, then we're in for one hell of a ride when it releases later this year.

Although we haven't seen any of DICE's work on the game's multiplayer component yet, there's no denying the fact that it's in expert hands. If DICE can bring anywhere near the sort of multiplayer experience that it provided in Bad Company 2 then, far from being tacked-on, it will be a shining example of its genre that's guaranteed to provide oodles of long-term appeal.

As our first look closed out, the Tier 1 Operators were climbing up towards a mountainside village. When insurgents came into sight, the operators again stealthily took up positions amongst rocky outcrops, making sure that they had the high ground. Once again, the game's scripting let the set-piece play out stealthily. The team leader ordered his Tier 1's to hold fire until the targets were right underneath them and then, in a sudden flurry of gunfire, it was all over. As the squad moved up through the village and into houses, the task became less clinical. Weeding insurgents out from hiding places within dwellings provided the enemy with an advantage, which led to our character being knocked semi-conscious by the butt of an enemy rifle. As we looked up at a blurry image of the attacker cocking his gun, it appeared to be all over. A bullet in the side of his head soon turned the tables though: "I just saved your ass," remarked a squad mate as he hauled us up.

Medal of Honor just went to the top of our very premature Christmas list. EA is doing so much more than merely jumping on the bandwagon with this modern combat revamp of the Medal of Honor IP. On the contrary, it appears to be putting together a superbly presented package with truckloads of atmosphere and expertly designed set-pieces that serve up a hearty plate of immersive FPS action.

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User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 05th Nov 2010 12:13, Post No: 61

Further to my previous comments on the 19th October, I've noted that HMV is also offering Black Ops for only £7.99 with the trade in of MoH. I'll be taking full advantage of that offer, as losing £7.99 on the game is far less annoying than losing almost £40.

 

(I wonder which of the main characters in Black Ops they'll be killing off, though) ;-)


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 02nd Nov 2010 14:07, Post No: 60

Digital Tarmac has done there review on Medal of Honor Check it out!


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Sat 30th Oct 2010 23:38, Post No: 59

Post 40 - its a forum about a game, who gives a [#@!?] how people spell,get over it..
spell checkers are about as annoying as the fan boys on here


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 29th Oct 2010 11:26, Post No: 58

been on the mp for days,not touched anything else


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 29th Oct 2010 11:04, Post No: 57

wee wee hahaha


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 29th Oct 2010 10:58, Post No: 56

Nino Figjam I suggest you remove your shades and look again at the graphics! the chopper gunner level is fantastic!.

Man im I glad I dont listen to people like you! phew,And you smell of wee wee


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Sun 24th Oct 2010 21:53, Post No: 55

For UK customers, my local Gamestation is offering a guarranteed money off deal on Black ops for trading MoH in at time of purchase so thats what Il be doing. I imagine all Gamestation stores will be doing the same. I only wish Id not bothered paying 40quid for this. Greap SP but way too short. And the MP is just a rehashed BC2 but without some of the smarter ideas. Left me too skint to afford New Vegas so Im pretty annoyed at myself.

 

6/10


By: Nino Figjam

Added:Sun 24th Oct 2010 01:21, Post No: 54

DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!!

This game is not worth too much of my time to rate so I'll be brief. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!! I completed this game on the hardest difficulty in just over 4 hours. Graphics are poor, gameplay is average, AI is pathetic, Multiplayer is better than single player, but multiplayer gameplay could be compared to the original Halo, there is nothing new or exiting about this game. It is extremely over priced for such a pathetic attempt at a FPS. Knowing what I know now, If I saw this game on the shelf with $10 on it, I would complain about being over charged. Spare yourselves the grief and wait for COD7 at least they know how to make FPS games.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 21st Oct 2010 10:04, Post No: 53

8 out of 10. Sorry ..No. The game is not at all worth that. 6/7 at best. Why...because it's the same as before as before as before as before.

All this type of game does is follow a path laid down by all the FPS games in last few years or so. MW was practically copied by MW2 in most respects but failed on the multiplayer section for me by not using dedi servers (Yes I am a PC Gamer) These games are single players with tacked on Multi games unlike the Battlefield series where it is the other way around.

MOH has basically done the same thing. Yes it looks lovely, yes the sound is good but it's just too predictable.

The multi experience in my mind is also a joke. It's basically camp in a darkened or covered spot and keep shooting at movement till someone gets a lucky shot in and then respawn and find another spot to do the same. This multi player would have been so much better with larger map.

The next one will be Black Ops and it will be the same again..you know it will.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 19th Oct 2010 16:39, Post No: 52

Thanks for the helpful review. I wish I'd read it before forking out near £40 for the game. Let's see: £40 divided by 5 hours of gameplay = £8 per hour. I'm fairly certain you could get a better-than-average hooker for less than that in Amsterdam...

 

Seriously, though, the gameplay was very, very good, and at times I was so immersed in the unfolding drama that I sat there with sweaty palms wondering where the bloody hell my air support was. When the game abruptly ended (*SPOILER ALERT* with another MW2 rip-off involving the killing-off of a leading character), I was genuinely confused and waiting for the next chapter to start.

I'm not particularly interested in extending the play time with multiplayer, since I get that particular fix with MW2, so if you're like me, you'll rather wait to do a game swap with a slightly disappointed mate.


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